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Appeals court partially reinstates colonoscopy malpractice claim

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A northern Indiana court inappropriately granted summary judgment in favor of a doctor and medical practice defending a suit brought by a patient who claimed negligence after a colonoscopy, a divided panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

Katherine Chaffins claimed severe pain after a procedure and that she was improperly released from the hospital, after which her pain continued until she returned and was diagnosed with a perforated colon that required surgery.

The appeals panel majority wrote in Katherine Chaffins and Roger Chaffins Sr. v. Clint Kauffman, M.D.; Family and Women's Health Services; and Pulaski County Memorial Hospital, 66A04-1302-CT-85, that the Chaffinses conceded there was no evidence to support the opinion that the doctor misperformed the procedure resulting in the perforation, but there were issues making summary judgment inappropriate.   

The majority partially reinstated a malpractice claim, finding the plaintiffs presented “sufficient evidence to negate the opinion of the medical review panel, thereby establishing a genuine issue of material fact.” The majority granted a limited reversal of Pulaski Superior Judge Patrick Blankenship’s grant of summary judgment. Blankenship relied on the medical review panel’s finding that the defendants did not fail to meet the applicable standard of care.

“What remains is the Chaffinses’ claim that the Defendants’ alleged negligence caused Katherine to suffer twelve hours of prolonged pain. At oral argument, the Defendants conceded that prolonged pain was contemplated by the ‘physical injuries’ allegation in the Chaffinses’ complaint. Accordingly, we conclude that (defendants) failed to make a prima facie showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to causation. Summary judgment in favor of Dr. Kauffman and the Hospital was inappropriate,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote in the majority opinion joined by Judge Patricia Riley.

Judge Elaine Brown dissented, saying she would affirm summary judgment, noting the doctor relied on his nurse to inform him of Chaffins’ pain after the colonoscopy, which even the defendants’ expert before the review board acknowledged wasn’t inappropriate. Chaffins also was advised to return to the hospital if pain persisted.

“There is no designated evidence to show that the (dismissal) instructions deviated from the standard of care appropriate to Dr. Kauffman and Family and Women’s Health Services,” Brown wrote.

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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